A neoplatonic-Christian morality

1.) Is eternity attainable? 

If so, it cannot be before death since the whole of this life is in time. So even if we say “yes” we will distinguish the morality of attainment and the morality of this life, or a happiness that is absolute from one that is for now.

2.) If attainable, then how? 

There seems to be no one who argued we could know it was attainable by reason, though if it is attainable then we could not rule out its being possible. So far as reasoning is discursive and fed from sensation, the attainment of eternity is unintelligible to it. In order to attain the eternal a rational being must acquire a new nature, which happens only by rebirth.

3.) If attainable, can it fail to be obtained? 

If so, after death those who fail to attain must be met either with annihilation or the perpetual continuance of time. But annihilation introduces duality into the divine act and so is at least unfitting and probably impossible. Leaving aside the question of punishment or what the metaphor of the flames means, the eternity of Hell is perpetual time.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Kristor said,

    June 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Is eternity attainable? Depends what we mean by “attain.” Can a creature *become* eternal? No, obviously. What is eternal does not become. Resurrection is to an extensive finite body that had a beginning.

    Attainment of eternity must then mean perfected creaturely apprehension of concrete eternity (as distinct from the notional or formal eternity that is our nearest present rational approach thereto): the BV. Given divine ubiquity, the BV is available everywhere, at least in principle, to minds properly attuned. And by our nature mens capax dei, or else we’d have no notion of God to begin with. But our nature has been wounded, its original powers imperfected. What we need is not a *different* sort of nature, then, but the perfection – the repair – of our proper human nature.

    That would however seem like quite a different sort of nature; more like that of a god than that of Fallen man.

    • t3ophilius said,

      June 12, 2017 at 7:54 am

      How about “participatable”?

      • June 12, 2017 at 9:15 am

        The point of “attainable” is that eternity shows up in a moral account and so has to be treated as the goal of human action. What we attain might be a participatable eternity, but this would differ not in the account one gives of the eternity but of how it arises – presumably one would say that God has it by nature and we have it by (his) gift and (our) choice.

    • June 12, 2017 at 9:39 am

      Can a creature *become* eternal? No, obviously. What is eternal does not become. Resurrection is to an extensive finite body that had a beginning

      We’ll have to carve out some sense in which this can be true but I would want to open up a robust sense of what it could mean to become eternal. Eternity is to possess all goods in exactly the way that time qua time makes them unable to be possessed. STA is right that eternity follows changelessness, but only so far as change involves an unpossessed good. Understood in this way eternity is a sort of region or domain of existence that we can intelligibly understand as entering, even while remaining physical. This is one hypothesis to explain just how bizarre Christ is to those to whom he appears. The historical-critical mockery of the timelines in the resurrection accounts might just be part of the same problem that everyone has in recognizing who Christ is or saying where he is. They might well be baffled at explaining exactly when he is.

      (Now I’m shifting to your comments on human nature, the fall, and capax dei.)

      I agree with STA that the beatific vision requires God himself to become the very thought we think about him (I think we can make this compatible with an essence-energies distinction, but I’m more comfortable seeing this as a critique of that distinction). On the one hand, reason remains as what is essential to defining the subject enjoying the vision, on the other hand change or discursivity must fall away from the exercise of its act so far as the act itself is God. But a non-discursive reasoning is contradictory. The best model to preserve this is a divine and human nature unified in a human person, i.e. being born into eternity in a manner that perfectly reverses Christ’s birth into a human nature. This allows for the maximal sort of union between God and the person while still allowing for a principle to distinguish the Incarnation from the blessedness of the Saints. (To address the objection that would be most ready-to-hand, Latria is still reserved for divine persons.)

      • Kristor said,

        June 12, 2017 at 1:06 pm

        … eternity is a sort of region or domain of existence that we can intelligibly understand as entering, even while remaining physical.

        Sure, I can see that. Time presupposes eternity; supervenes it; so eternity conditions time pervasively; environs it. We could say then that temporality is a condition of partial eternity; we could say with T3ophilius that it is a participation in eternity, as the moving image participates the eternity of its Form.

        Such participation might be more or less perfect and complete. Any degree of participation instantiates the Form to some degree. Perfect participation instantiates it completely, to the limit set by the nature of the Form.

        In the BV, we see all things by looking at God, in whom all things live, move and have their being to begin with. Looking at God, we see all of God, know all that he knows, and enjoy all that he enjoys, to the limit of our natural creaturely capacity; so we partake his eternity, and in thus making it our own condition we possess it.

        It is in this possession perhaps that God becomes the very thought of God in the mind of the saint. There is in the mystical ascent a purification and completion of apprehension, such that the object thereof suffuses the mystic’s mind without jot of remainder. There is then in his intellect nothing but its object. [This can happen to a lesser degree with absorption in worldly things, as with the “flow” of the athlete, the warrior, the artist, the lover.] The limit of the mystical ascent is the perfection of apprehension, which is a sort of community between subject and object. It is a community exactly like that of marriage as perfectly consummated, in which the two are made into a one, in which they then jointly and mutually subsist.

        In the perfection of apprehension, the subject takes the object completely as his own, and so lets it form and conform him. He then partakes the object ontologically: the concrete triangle *just is* triangular.

        This possession of eternity does not obviate our temporality. Creatures could not see God if they were not distinct from him. Israel sees God; but he does not become something other than Israel. Indeed, it is in seeing God that Jacob becomes Israel, and fulfills his own nature.

        Israel is still a man; still eats, breathes, moves about, sweats. It’s just that he has begun to see God the way that man is meant to do.

        On the one hand, reason remains as what is essential to defining the subject enjoying the vision, on the other hand change or discursivity must fall away from the exercise of its act so far as the act itself is God. But a non-discursive reasoning is contradictory.

        We must distinguish between reason and reasoning. It is by discursive reasoning that we arrive at apprehension of reasons. Once we grasp the reasons, reasoning ceases. But that we are not reasoning in that moment does not make us other than rational. On the contrary: rest of the intellect in the apprehension of reasons is the condition of complete rationality.

        As the heart is restless until it finds rest in God, so is the intellect. Once the intellect finds Reason, it stops reasoning and *just is* reason. It rests. We could characterize that state of rest as the achievement of justice in the intellect; of its proper krasis.

        In the mystical ascent, this rest is felt as the fulfillment of the intellect; as a sort of sublime intellection, the maximum and final end of thought, the utmost synthesis.

        As the mystic descends from the heights, ratiocination begins again. He experiences the descent from comprehensive synthesis into analysis as a type of tragedy, and of alienation, not just from God, but from his self.

        In rehearsals, musicians will play a bit of the piece, then stop, go over it again, repeat the process, go on to the next bit, string chunks together, and then at last perform the whole thing several times. However partial or imperfect, each such participation of the piece is an ingress to creaturely life of the whole form of the piece, and no part of the piece makes complete sense except insofar as it implicates the whole of it. The meaning of the part is in the whole, and is nowhere else to be found.

        It is not as though the singer stops singing at the perfection of his singing of a piece. On the contrary: in the perfection of singing, the singer is singing *the entire composition,* at every moment of the performance. It is not a discursive operation, even though it is extensive. There is a union of all moments of the piece in the mind and heart of the singer. It is in virtue of that union that any moment of the song is a moment of that very song.

        So when Jesus quotes Psalm 22 from the Cross, he invokes the whole psalm, and by implication the whole of the scriptures; of the Word; of the history of Israel; of salvation history; of creation.

        The best model to preserve this is a divine and human nature unified in a human person, i.e., being born into eternity in a manner that perfectly reverses Christ’s birth into a human nature. This allows for the maximal sort of union between God and the person while still allowing for a principle to distinguish the Incarnation from the blessedness of the Saints.

        Yes. God became Man that men might become gods. Our godhood – which is to say, our proper manhood, fully expressed – is to be found only by our compete recourse to God, in whom only is our true nature to be found. We get to be gods, i.e., only in virtue of the BV.
        Sorry to go on so long. You provoked a brainstorm.

  2. t3ophilius said,

    June 12, 2017 at 9:48 am

    @James how about “attainable partecipation” 🙂 Granted that “eternity” in a moral account has to be treated as the goal of human action, it seems to me that this “attainability” (sorry for the term but I’m italian with a very bad googlenglish) should be grounded in the nature of the moral agent; namely the _actual_ partecipation of the human soul to eternity. Thus the “attainable” could be referred as an “accomplished partecipation” of the human soul _and_ the resurrected (new) body.


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